The "conscience of craft": Developing students' sense of
academic responsibility and the habit of doing their work well.
- One of the most common ways our character affects the lives of others is through the quality of the work we do. When we do our work well, others benefit; when we do it poorly, others suffer.
- One of the most important "voices" of conscience, therefore, is the conscience of craft, the voice that says: "Do a good job." It is a mark of people's character when they take care to perform their jobs and other tasks well.
- A student's schoolwork affords the opportunity to develop work-related character traits that have lifelong importance:
- Self-discipline, including the ability to delay gratification in order to pursue future goals
- Persistence in the face of discouragement or failure
- Dependability, including a public sense of work as affecting the lives of others
- Diligence, concern to do a good job
- Academic responsibility (e.g., making the most of one's education).
Teachers help students develop these work-related character qualities when they:
- Set a good example of responsible work through their own teaching -- being well-prepared and on time, returning student work promptly and with comments, giving extra help where needed, etc. Writes Ed Wynne: "A teacher's first obligation as a moral educator is to teach well."
- Combine high expectations and high support -- the belief that every child can learn and teaching strategies that enable every student to learn.
- Challenge students to develop real expertise. (Jerome Bruner: "Students must be able to probe a subject deeply. They should not have an education of the fingertips that touches everything but seizes nothing.")
- Provide a meaningful curriculum, including teaching to students' interests and strengths. Says Ann Halpern, a 2nd- and 3rd-grade teacher: "Valuing children's interests is one of the most authentic ways of helping them to value themselves."
- Assign regular and meaningful homework.